Chapter 33
What's in a Name?

Surnames count, but not that much

There was a knocking at the door. I wasn't expecting anyone, so I looked through the peephole. three middle-aged people. Obviously lost. I didn't think they were looking for me.

"Yes? Can I help you?"

They looked at me puzzled. "Is Mrs. Hasdfjkl here?" (I'm kidding about the spelling, but the pronunciation was so indistinct that I could not make it out. Seemed like about 1.5 syllables as I heard it.) Ah, they might be looking for the Iranian lady around the corner on this floor, whose name begins with Ha but is four distinct syllables. I asked for the name again. The woman answered again, in the same thick accent, the same maybe two syllables starting with H.

"You probably want 10-G," I said, pointing down the corridor.

The woman looked puzzled again, pointed to the brass knocker on my door, which is inscribed with the apartment number, 10-H. "Isn't this the first letter of your last name?" she inquired.

"No, it's just a letter, like A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H. Try 10-G, around the corner."

They left, but didn't look all that hopeful. However, they didn't come back, so maybe that was the right place.

Question 1a: How did they get into the building in the first place if they didn't know which apartment to buzz? Tailgated, most likely. And didn't even glance at the directory.

(This reminds me of a day when a random person got into the building, which is easy, and then wandered the floors trying doorknobs until he happened to find mine open, and he just walked in asking for someone who did not exist in this building, at least not on the building directory. He might even have had the wrong building, but there are only two other buildings within a half-mile that even have a tenth floor. Hmmm. I thought it suspicious at the time, but he was the best-dressed burglar in the city if so. And I don't leave the knob unlocked much anymore.)

Question 1b: The directory next to the intercom lists all the names of apartment residents, correctly spelled, and their apartment numbers. Why didn't this help at all?

Question 2: The apartment letter might be your surname initial? You're kidding. Who could possibly think such a thing? How could that be true in any culture, where families in a neighborhood might share initials? It would be even stranger for Ms. T. and I, who have two different surnames.